I’ve a newfound respect for my mother for raising me with any semblance of tradition; it turns out, for many of us, it’s not easy to make the considerable effort to celebrate holidays and create family traditions. But Poppy made it look so easy in Trolls Holiday (a Netflix film most of you may have passed over in which Poppy raps a list of holidays to share with those less well-versed in tradition–Queen Bridget and King Gristle). I’m like Bridget, a tad receptive to suggested traditions and my husband is King Gristle, angrily wiping Poppy’s glitter (from her pop up holiday cards) out of his eyes. In theory, I like traditions. I fondly remember lighting Friday night candles with Grandma Libby and Grandpa Ben when I used to visit them in Ohio as a child. For more than a decade, my husband, kids and I, voluntarily flew to Cleveland, sometimes in blizzards, to share Thanksgiving with my mother and our beloved family friends; they offered us what we could not emulate at home—a motley, lively collection of people in conversation, a mind-bending collection of perfectly baked pies/stuffings and lazy, post-gorge hours on a cozy couch watching football in periphery–uniquely satisfied. I, to this day, can get behind a rollicking Passover Sedar with its charming, idiosyncratic moments, i.e, filling a cup for a phantom Elijah and dipping a pinky into red wine for each of the Ten Plagues. But when I’ve tried to light Friday night candles for even two consecutive weeks, I’m at a loss. That takes some coordination, namely, a sure supply of the right candles and a utopian dedication to having us all in the same place at the same time.
That’s why recently, confronting my son’s high school applications, I was flummoxed to discover the following question for prospective parents: “Please describe your family traditions.” I thought, what kind of sanctimonious rot is this? Is there a place for bald honesty in these applications? Can I say we head of household are feckless and tradition-averse, the kind who decide every year which holidays to celebrate and which ones go on the chopping block. Can I tell them how we have lots of good intentions as a family–my kids, clearly hungry for tradition– often suggesting holidays for us to celebrate, i.e. Hamilton Day, Neuro-diversity Day, Yes Day, Korean Peppero candy day(a real holiday in Korea I read), Misty Copeland Day, Steven Universe Day and most recently Squid Games Day, but we parents lack follow-through. COVID, for many of us, has been the death knoll for family holidays. It’s turned us all into hermits who shun parties and travel. Many of us will not sit at a long table with a bevy of relatives as we used to. See my own family of four at our table this Thanksgiving–no leaf to extend the table necessary as we sliced a runt turkey and quietly appreciated our prim spread. My next hurdle—-how to celebrate the approaching Korean New Year’s in a safe way. Will I use my building’s unfinished, certainly code-violating roof and make guests bundle up in January for Korean food and our cash-grabbing tradition? (If you happen to see a flock of dollar bills in the sky that day, you will know from whence they came). Then of course there’s the planning and preparation for my son’s late-in-the-game bar mitzvah–a daunting task as he’s never gone to Hebrew School and therefore, needs a Cliff Notes Jewish education; further, my husband and I find organized religion to be stifling and dull and my head spins as I consider planning an exuberant, uniquely creative (but Covid-safe) celebration so that my son knows how much he is loved and admired by us (though I think he knows that already).
Other than worrying what a derelict parent I am, this holiday season, I have been a masterful slug, forsaking evening writing time for television (You, White Lotus, Succession and infinite Kdramas) and the occasional sketch. Last night, I got a real kick out of the Kendall birthday episode of Succession, in particular the scene where Kendall forbids his siblings from entering the luxe treehouse he ordered for his disastrous birthday party. (In the words of Korean rapper Audrey Nuna, Damn Right!) This funny scene made me think very end-of-the-year/New Year’s resolution thoughts, such as whom would I want in my hypothetical treehouse and whom would I ban? (Though at this stage of my life, I mostly surround myself by people I like, there is always room for some adjustments!). I loved the scene because Kendall is such a man-child , which sometimes makes him profoundly unlikable but in this one moment, I wanted to give him a maternal squeeze and applaud him for preserving the sanctity of his stunning treehouse. One of the only nice things about these past two years of COVID instability and mayhem is that there’s been for most of us, a real paring down of our social worlds; only the closest friends have risen to the surface. Be gone Shivs and Romans! (Though Roman is a hoot, he would suck as a relative). How I wasted my youth on some friends who made me feel like doo, i.e. the college friend who used to call me “Sooms” short for my middle name Sumi uninvited, in order to say things like “Oh Sooms, late again?” or to otherwise mock my sometimes spacey/ADHD ways. (Note: Don’t call me Sooms, unless you ask me please. PTSD!) Let’s get rid or at least distance ourselves from people who roast us but never say things that make us feel good and boot out those who say abusive things to us (even if sporadically and under stress), never apologize and make us feel complicit when we are not at fault.
For 2022, readers, stand guard at the door of your treehouse and turn away those who erode your self-worth because IT’S YOUR DAMN TREEHOUSE! (I hope that’s the most New Age-y thing I ever write on this blog). Happy New Year!!